So my brother and I are making a film in the new year. Having flung our script out to some of our best eyes, we’ve now had enough compelling feedback to feel ready to redraft.
Normally this would mean retyping the old draft from scratch. That may make some of you double take but that’s how we like to work. It may sound hopelessly Luddite but we’ve found it too easy to leave material unchallenged when simply doing a cut and paste redraft.
However, this has always been when working on a spec script. We’re now redrafting something that is in production, with a need to highlight our revisions more clearly than in the past. Also our first day of principle is hurtling towards us like the ground greeting a inept stuntman. So we’ve been looking around for a new way of working.
For some years we’ve also been wondering why no one has made a grab for the cine-software market from first draft to final cut. A screenwriting programme that could then break down the work in a smart way, pulling out all the information needed for the schedule and budget. Indeed a suite of programmes that could take the data from that script through the schedule to the set and on ending up in your edit bin with all your rushes linking straight back to the first document you wrote. Well seemingly that’s now here and sadly it’s by Adobe.
Adobe Story promises all of the above and even if using it does take us one step closer to Premiere, we both felt it had to be worth investigating.
First impressions were generally favourable. Granted our script lost a lot of formatting on input, but Story did automatically detect our main characters and generate a pointless but spookily accurate graph of our story’s pace. This was cool.
Reinstating the correct formatting less cool. The template is set up with hot keys that flow automatically whilst writing. So hitting return after a scene heading always moves you to action, then tab for character. This is great whilst writing but applying formats to existing text seems to rely on selecting from a drop down menu. Fine for single instances but a horrible way of reformatting in bulk. Assignable hot-keys seems like an odd basic to miss.
Three hours later and our script is ready to revise. This process also has quirks, mostly stuff I expect you learn to work with. But if a lack of obvious keyboard short cuts was a surprise then the real shocker was the speed of the thing.
Story is a web app which likes to imagine we’re all sharing an online office. It’s a great idea but even when working offline it feels like typing on a remote server. A noticeable lag makes it a thoroughly unpleasant writing experience.
Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by writing in Scrivener for the past few years, which is like writing in silk. Story holds up badly in comparison. Along with the unresponsiveness comes an ugly rendering of Courier, annoying pop-up windows and a clumsy UI which hides most of what you need in favour of empty grey space. Story is horribly reminiscent of the bane of my life – Sage, the accounts package my accountant makes me use.
So that was day one with Adobe Story. Did we give up? No. Because despite all the complaints the hook of all that metadata is too good to pass up on.
We know that with this film we are going to be working in a very fluid manner. We have a tiny budget and, thanks to Christmas, a short prep window. We also have a script that we intend to develop around the actors. Things are going to change. The thought that for a little more pain today we can save ourselves a great deal of agony in a few months time is very appealing. The idea that a change we might make in a scene will then be automatically updated in the schedule and budget is very sexy indeed.
That is of course if it actually works. If you have any experience of Story and the workflow from here on then I’d love to hear your views.
We might have just made the first big mistake on this film. On the other hand we might have taken a step towards cutting on Premiere…